Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has dramatically reduced the number of injuries that has hindered the Red Devils in recent seasons.
Since the Portuguese manager took charge at Old Trafford back in May, he and his staff pinpointed the high number of injuries suffered by United players as a key factor in helping improve results.
Measures were taken to address the issue, and according to data contrived by Ben Dinnery, a leading injury data analyst, founder of Premier Injuries Ltd and the man behind the sports injury website physioroom.com, Mourinho has successfully found a fix.
In the five previous seasons, at this point of the season, United were averaging 41.6 injuries, which accumulated to a total average of 1,099.2 days lost to injury.
In a dramatic contrast, Mourinho’s men have suffered just 31 injuries this campaign, averaging out at only 416 days lost. This time last year, Louis Van Gaal had lost almost three times as many players to injury.
The biggest cause of injury worry for United in recent seasons was muscle-related, with an average of 15 cases at this point of the season in the previous five seasons.
While Mourinho has still seen his stars succumb to muscle problems (12), the number of days lost to those injuries has dropped sharply, from 377.2 days to the much lower figure of 175 days. Last season, under Van Gaal, United players with muscle injuries were lost to an incredible average of 502 days.
The Red Devils will go into another game with an empty injury table, as they prepare to face Hull City in the semi-final of the EFL Cup on Thursday, and Mourinho is hopeful that the injuries continue to stay away.
“In terms of injury, we are being successful,” Mourinho said last week. “And hopefully until the end of the season, we won’t have many more problems and have conditions to fight for all the competitions we are in.”
The Portuguese boss has handled the conditioning of his players carefully, with a number of carefully planned alterations.
Discussing the need for changes last month, he said: “We have lots of things to improve at a lot of levels.”
“As an example, it looks like it’s not important – I think it is – one thing is the training session with a desert of grass. When somebody kicks the ball and the ball goes five kilometres away.
“Another thing is you give a look now and it looks a proper training ground. Very good conditions to work, protected from the wind, the intensity of the training session is much higher, that is just a simple detail and we have lots of details to improve.”
On top of this, he has granted his players with one day off a week, while training schedules are planned a month in advance with a tailored plan in place to meet the needs of specific footballers.
Mourinho, assistant Rui Faria and fitness coach Carlos Lalin all have sports science degrees, and the meticulous planning to avoid injuries has so far proven successful.
However, on top of their strategies, Mourinho expects his players to go “the extra mile” and make themselves available even when they are not 100% fit.
Last November, Luke Shaw and Chris Smalling were both slammed for ruling themselves out of a match against Swansea City. In an angered response, Mourinho said: “To compete you have to go to the limit.”
“It is cultural for some – and that is not my culture. More than me, it is Man United.”